Iraq: imperialist plans fall apart

Writing on the Middle East and the Caucasus in FRFI 142 (April 1998) we said, ‘the USA must use violence, sooner rather than later, if its position as the dominant imperial power is not to be undermined’. Six years later the Financial Times carries the headline ‘US asks private groups to ease bullet shortage’. The US defence contractor General Dynamics proposed a solution, ‘pulling together several small bullet suppliers – including Winchester, a unit of Olin Corporation; Israel Military Industries; and Canada’s SNC Technologies – to meet the army’s gap. “We’re using so much ammunition in Iraq there isn’t enough capacity around” said Eric Hugel, a defence industry analyst at Stephens Inc. “They have to go internationally”.’ (Financial Times, 27 May 2004). TREVOR RAYNE reports.

The Iraqi interim government drafted in at the end of June is not working and for all the bullets fired by US and British troops they are not winning. The terrain that the US and British states have taken is not subdued and they cannot govern it. In fact, they are losing that terrain.

In a tape timed to coincide with the third anniversary of 11 September, Bin Laden’s associate Al Zawarhi said, ‘southern and eastern Afghanistan have completely become an open field for the mujahedeen…The Americans are huddled in their trenches refusing to confront the holy warriors despite the holy warriors shelling, shooting and cutting the routes around them.’ The US has lost 135 soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Bin Laden has not been captured. Elections scheduled for October are implausible with much of Afghanistan out of government control and reports of people making multiple registrations to vote.

The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said in early September that it would be months before the US and Iraqi security forces would be able to take back cities such as Falluja and Ramadi. About half a dozen Iraqi cities plus Sadr City in Baghdad, with a population of two million people, are described as ‘no-go areas’ for the occupation armies and interim government forces. They are no go areas in the sense that Falluja and Najaf were no-go areas in April this year: the occupation armies could only take them by flattening them and this is politically unacceptable. The US and British states will use the interim government and the media to open the political space to launch all-out assaults on these centres of resistance.

On 7 September the number of US fatalities in action in Iraq exceeded 1,000, with the Pentagon admitting to 7,000 wounded. Many of these soldiers would have died from their wounds in the Korean and Vietnam wars through the loss of one or all of their limbs. US troops are now being attacked on average 60 times a day, up 20% on the average for the three months before the ‘transfer’ to the interim government. The Brookings Institute puts the number of attacks on foreign forces in Iraq at 400 in February and a record 1,500 in August. US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld said that this increase was to be expected as the proposed January elections for a Constituent Assembly approached. Previously Rumsfeld had said that the increase in attacks was to be expected as the transfer of sovereignty to the interim government approached. Rumsfeld is attempting to conceal that the resistance is a gathering force. He conceded that the January elections may well exclude parts of Iraq where there were ‘greater challenges’.
The trend of US casualties in Iraq is rising; it tripled from August 2003 to August 2004 when 63 were killed. The numbers of US military killed in each month since the ‘transfer of sovereignty’ in June 2004 exceeds the number killed that month: 42 killed in June, 54 in July and 63 in August. British military deaths are put at 66. British forces are strategically stationed close to the main Iraqi oil terminals. British casualties can be expected to increase.

US estimates of the numbers of the resistance fighters have grown from 5,000 at the end of 2003 to 20,000 today. Numbers of US troops serving in Iraq have increased from 115,000 to 140,000 today. US estimates of the number of interim government forces have fallen from 200,000 to 95,000.
As in the 1920s when the British RAF bombed and strafed Iraqi villages, today the USAF depends on aerial bombardment, targeting cities and locations otherwise impenetrable to US forces, for example Falluja, which the US bombs almost every day. The US claims it is killing ‘insurgents’ but Iraqis show us pictures of dead and injured children and civilians. Iraqi deaths from these attacks run into the hundreds each week. The use of 2,000 pound bombs and missiles in densely populated areas inevitably kills many people. The Iraqi death toll is estimated to be 12,000 to 14,000 civilians and 7,000 to 10,000 soldiers. However, using just mainstream British press reports I counted close to 300 dead in the week to 18 September. Iraq’s ministry of health says 3,186 civilians were killed either by US-led forces or in ‘terrorist attacks’ between 5 April 2004 and 12 September. We hear nothing of the cancer deaths which will follow in the aftermath of the initial US and British assault when depleted uranium shells were used.

FRFI 181 October / November 2004


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